California gay marriage opponents argue no discrimination

Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:23pm EST
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By Alexandria Sage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. federal court considering whether a California ban on gay marriage denies constitutional rights was told on Monday that gays and lesbians have strong political allies, including California's governor and the state's Democratic Party.

Monday was the first day that proponents of Proposition 8 -- a ballot initiative backed by voters in 2008 that ended gay marriage in California -- called witnesses to the stand.

A key question in the case is whether government, and U.S. voters, have a reasonable justification for denying same-sex marriage, such as promoting healthier families, or if the bans instead reflect discrimination and hatred.

Supporters of the ban sought to show through Monday's testimony that gays are not systematically discriminated against.

Prop 8 supporters called as their first witness Kenneth Miller, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, who was questioned about the political clout of gays and lesbians in the California and federal political systems.

The landmark trial, which began two weeks ago, has included plaintiffs' witnesses testifying that same-sex couples can be good parents, that their health and wealth could rise when married -- benefiting the government as well -- and that gays have a history of persecution.

The United States is divided on same-sex marriage. It is legal in only five states, though most of those, and the District of Columbia, approved it last year.

Two gay men and two lesbian women have asked the federal court to rule that the right to marry has no exceptions under the U.S. Constitution. It is a fight some are betting will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in a bid to overturn bans on same-sex marriage in 40 states.   Continued...